Would this have happened to a man?

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Another example of the patriarchy in action

I’m going to share an experience with you because it is something that still perplexes me and I feel that sharing it will help me gain some clarity and shine a light perhaps on how young women are treated. It’s a story about me and a stately home (I’m not going to mention which one) and it happened when we (my mum and I) were taking photos for Instagram some time ago.

And to put it in context, I had contacted the people who owned the place, got their permission to shoot there and they had given me a media pass too.

So there I am all excited and ready to shot at a location. It was a bit of a drive and we were both a little flustered by the time we arrived. We packed up the bag with several outfits and props and off we went on our journey. We scoped out the location, decided on a few places to take pictures and then went into the house. We went in, told the ladies at reception what we were there for, showed them our media passes and started taking photos. We had no tripod; just the camera, which while having a wide lens, is just a camera. The house was full of people with cameras and bags (granted our bag might have been bigger than most) but still we looked for all purposes normal. There were only two differences that I could see; firstly, I was wearing a dress – just a dress, not a long, ballgown princess dress – most people had jeans on, and secondly, most of the other people at the location were three times my age. There was nothing really out of the ordinary about us.

We took a few pictures and entered one of the rooms. Everyone was taking pictures here and I even spotted a middle-aged man with a camera much bigger than mine. Most were taking pictures of the architecture and some were taking tourist-style pictures of their other half. My mother went to take a picture of me and immediately a man came over to us, identifying himself as the duty manager. He asked what we were doing to which we replied that we were taking pictures. He stared at us and we stared at all the other people taking pictures and he clearly didn’t get the point.

‘Did you tell the ladies at reception you were doing this?’ he asked. ‘Yes, and not only that but we contacted the owners of the house and have a media pass’. People were now staring after paying no attention to us at all before. He asked to see the media pass, we showed him and he continued to ask strange questions, pretty much another version of his first question. We were polite, not unhelpful and just a little confused. At this point he told us not to move and walked away with the media pass. We stood there for a good 20 minutes, watching other older people come and go and take pictures. Eventually we moved into the hallway outside because honestly it was getting boring and we were wasting time. We took a few sneaky pictures because well, time was short.

After some time, he came back with another lady; he was clearly miffed we have moved. He stood by her while she asked us pretty much the same questions that he had asked; we gave her pretty much the same answers. She then started asking us how I made money; I was confused and was about to say “what the hell?” before my mum figured out that possibly she thought we were selling the photos commercially, so she tells her the situation again, including the contract made with the owners. She seemed to finally get it, looked sheepish and then started talking about how some of the things in the house were on loan, etc. I hadn’t taken any pictures of any of the things she said were on loan at this point but could see a photographer to the side of me doing just that; they were ignoring him.

Eventually she apologised and said that we were free to carry on. The duty manager looked us up and down, handed over the media pass and told me that we mustn’t interfere with other guests, which seems rather odd since we hadn’t had any contact with any other guests. He didn’t apologise and muttered something about Mum’s rucksack.

We took all the pictures we needed, but something about the day leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not really sure, other than having a bigger camera than most, being female and wearing a dress that I was doing anything that others were not doing. In fact, further on I found an older couple blocking the entrance for over 10 minutes while they tried to take a photo, nothing was said to them.

Maybe I’m over reacting? Maybe I did look odd? Maybe what I was doing was conspicuous? Or just maybe this is another example of the patriarchy trying to bring down young girls who are carving lives out for themselves.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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